Stamford High Student’s Campaign Leads to Student of the Year Nomination


Kathryn Sandoval

Stamford High students dressed in red for red out day, in support of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Campaign.

Jena Spezzano, Correspondent

Rylie Walker, a Stamford High School junior, has been nominated as student of the year for her role in the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Walker was nominated by Erica Rafter and Ryan Rafter, who himself is a leukemia survivor. Walker has created a campaign to raise money and awareness for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Leukemia is a type of cancer of blood-forming tissue, including bone marrow. Although there is no cure there are many treatments to help control the cancer and manage its symptoms. Research shows that if a person lives 5 years past their initial diagnosis they stand a good chance of beating it. LLS programs a seven-week philanthropic competition where participants gain valuable leadership skills for raising money and awareness for leukemia and lymphoma. Walker has been able to introduce many creative ways to show support for her campaign. 

The mission of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society is to find a cure for blood cancer and to improve the quality of life for patients and their families. Since 2016, LLS has raised over $74 million. The research for blood cancer is also a pathway to try to find cures for many other cancers in an easier way, which is to study blood instead of tumors. This campaign hits close to home for Walker as she has seen many close family members and friends suffer from cancer. It’s actually what inspired her. Walker says she was inspired to do this “because of the past and everything I’ve seen people go through, I really wanted to find a way to honor them.” Walker organized a red-out day for her campaign at Stamford High where students were encouraged to dress in red. These days were held on Wednesday, March 3 for B day and Thursday, March 4 for A day. The color red is to show support towards her movement. “I was so happy to see everyone showing their support in red, I felt that the black knights were supporting LLS,” Walker stated.

Walker spent months in advance planning for this campaign with the help of a team of people aged 15-60. Walker spoke highly of the assistance she received for this project from her two mentors, Deavon O’Toole and Melissa Swartz. Walker’s team hosted weekly zoom meetings discussing the progress of the campaign and what steps to take next. Walker and her team put a great deal of research into understanding leukemia and lymphoma and the issues surrounding them. Walker proudly announced she will continue this campaign next year. She stated, “I am going to have a legacy  team next year and I plan on being involved and helping them out.” She wants to raise and spread awareness as much as she can and has already raised over $10,000. On Thursday, March 11 there will be a final event where all the students nominated in the region will be attending a zoom gala. The gala will include a silent auction and the announcement of this year’s student of the year. Even if Walker does not win the award she said, “I’m incredibly thankful for everyone who has shown and given me support in this opportunity.” Here’s hoping  Walker does win student of the year but most importantly as Walker says the real key is that people continue to support and spread awareness of leukemia and lymphoma’s impacts, and they can do that by continuing to support Walker’s campaign.